B.C. youth aged 12 to 17 will be mainly vaccinated at community clinics rather than schools, province says
B.C. recorded 357 new cases of COVID-19 in past 24 hours, fewest new daily cases since mid-February
Youth aged 12 to 17 in B.C. will be vaccinated at community clinics throughout the province, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced Thursday.
Children between the ages of 12 and 17, about 310,000 people in B.C., can register through the online portal. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was recently approved for use in children of that age group.
Deputy Provincial Health Officer Dr. Reka Gustafson said that while youth have had relatively low transmission rates compared to adults, there have been about 8,000 cases in children aged 12 to 17.
"While they are not a major driver of transmission at a population level, any population group that we can immunize, 310,000 people in that group, will reduce the overall transmission of COVID in the population," she said.
Henry said the province will look at establishing "youth friendly" clinics and specialized clinics throughout the province, though most youth will receive their vaccine through existing clinics. A trusted parent or guardian can help youth to register and book a vaccine.
Henry said the rollout will not take place entirely in schools to ensure it remains equitable, and because a number of families who may have children in different schools will want to immunize their children together as a family.
Gustafson said during the H1N1 immunization program health officials learned that vaccinating people by age created challenges for families.
"Removing that barrier, allowing a family the flexibility to be vaccinated, whether or not they were invited for an appointment or had a chance to make an appointment just allows that family to take one more thing off their list," she said.
"That's good news for families who want to do this together," said Henry. "It's an exciting time for us as we see case counts coming down."
Henry said public health staff remain "fully engaged" in community clinics and cannot immediately be deployed to schools.
However, she also said that in some smaller communities the school might be the most convenient place to vaccinate children.
Henry also announced at the Thursday news conference that B.C. had recorded 357 new cases of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours — the lowest number since Feb. 16.
There have been three more deaths.
There are currently 4,636 active cases in the province, the fewest number of active cases since March 1. Hospitalizations stand at 331 down from 413 a week ago. There are 113 people in critical care, down from 141 last Thursday.
As of Thursday, Henry said, 58 per cent of eligible adults in B.C. had received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
She also presented new information on vaccine efficacy, saying that after three to four weeks with a single dose, community risk is reduced by up to 70 per cent.
Officials have said B.C. is on pace to have each eligible adult receive their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine by Canada Day. Currently, anyone 18 and older in British Columbia can register for vaccination.
Listen to Dr. Reka Gustafson's interview on CBC's On the Coast here:
Rules remain ahead of long weekend
Provincial travel restrictions remain in effect until after the May long weekend.
Premier John Horgan said B.C.'s circuit-breaker lockdown is expected to end on Tuesday, the same day the province plans on announcing a roadmap for lifting restrictions throughout the summer.
WATCH | B.C. premier John Horgan says he expects 'circuit-breaker' restrictions to end Tuesday
But Henry and Horgan urged British Columbians to follow restrictions through the long weekend.
"We've been clear for weeks and weeks now, wherever we've had a long weekend … we've seen an increase in case counts," said Horgan.
"I appreciate it's going to be a beautiful weekend. Stay local. Stay close to home."
Henry said that while B.C.'s numbers are trending in the right direction, restrictions will only be eased gradually.
"We are seeing things going the right direction, but things can change quickly. Nothing is going to be back to 100 per cent on Tuesday. It's not going to be a light switch, it's going to be a dimmer switch," she said.
The B.C. RCMP warned Wednesday they would be increasing the number and duration of road checks over the holiday to ensure people aren't travelling outside of their local region for non-essential purposes.
"Over the past two weeks, police have established rotating checks at four locations. While overall traffic volume has been less than normal levels, we did see an increase in traffic this past weekend," Supt. Holly Turton said in a statement.
Between May 14 and 16, police checked a total of 2,069 vehicles, 30 of which turned around voluntarily, according to RCMP.
Road checks will continue at four locations: Highway 1 in the Boston Bar area; Highway 3 in the Manning Park area; Highway 5 in the Old Toll Booth area; and Highway 99 in the Lillooet area.
With files from the Canadian Press